Are the horror stories about car rental in Iceland true?
Quite a lot of discussions on the worldwide web regarding car rental agencies in Iceland and many of the stories are not very flattering to locals. Team Total Iceland has received a question about car rental in Iceland asking if the stories about the companies cheating people out of their money is true or not.
The old adage; where there is smoke there is fire holds true in this case. Had the car rental agencies offered real and friendly service in the past there would most likely not be so many horror stories out there. Then again, service is not something the average Icelander is born with while greed is ingrained in many.
Total Iceland has before recommended hiring a car from one of the lesser known local companies. Their prices are more often than not considerably lower than the big name agencies and in some cases they don´t even offer brand new cars all the time. In other words, the older the car the less it is buy insurance and extra insurance and windshield insurance and ash insurance and sand insurance and etc….
A car rental company offering ash and sand protection insurance four years ago would have been ridiculed but now everyone does it. But sand has been blowing in Iceland from the beginning of time and neither are ash particles a particularly new phenomena on this volcanic island. What next? Snow insurance?
In any case, you are offered this extra insurance if you are driving the Westfjords where neither sand- nor ash storms happen.
The small print on webpages of many a car rental agencies here tell of “considerable” damage from driving through sand- og ash storms that form especially in the South of Iceland. This is untrue. It might get dirty and yes, even a small scratch too but “considerable” damage to a car is pretty serious condition.
Gravel protection sounds reasonable for a visitor. After all, roads in Iceland are horrible all over and many of those are simple gravel roads. But locals have been driving here for decades and you may look well and hard before you see many cars of the common man here dented or scratched.
This said, there is always the possibility of a broken front window from flying gravel and on average it is better to be safe than sorry.
Another insurance to skip is the theft protection in our opinion. Perhaps two or three cars are lifted in Iceland every week outside of the Reykjavik area. Few dare steal a car elsewhere since it will be easily spotted. But then again this insurance is not very expensive.